Rochelle Nolan speaks with Ted Flack from the St Vincent de Paul Society, Queensland, to find out how fundraising has fared in the aftermath of the Queensland floods.
When disaster strikes, somewhere not too far away from the frontline, fundraisers get very busy. The aftermath of the Queensland floods have been no different, as Australians open their hearts and their wallets to support those affected.
Corporates and individuals across the country have made sizeable donations to the relief efforts, totalling over $100 million. Ted Flack, state communications and fundraising manager for the St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland, says they have raised around $1.5 million dollars – much of it from donors who had never given to them before.
While Flack says donations have slowed significantly since the announcement of the government’s plan to introduce a flood levy, the funds raised demonstrate amazing generosity.
“There are some very special stories emerging; from individuals making large donations of $100,000 and more, to a man from South Australia who donated a fence post hole digger, knowing that the flooding in Lockyer Valley will have destroyed the farmers’ fences. One man has donated $100,000 to be used in no-interest loans, which is great because that money can then be revolved,” says Flack.
Donating goods not a priority
Along with financial support, Australians have been looking to help through donating goods. Flack says it has been challenging to dissuade people from donating goods at this point in time.
“People evacuated to emergency accommodation where we already had clean clothes for them. They may not have homes, may not even have cars anymore. So while undoubtedly generous, donations of toys or lounge chairs aren’t a priority at this point. We still want to thank people for their generosity while letting them know that we’d like them to keep it for now, we have their details, and when there is a need for that sort of thing we can work something out.”
Online giving increased – but mail still supreme
The St Vincent de Paul Society normally receives around 10% of donations through its website, but that has roughly tripled during the floods. “Mail has been very strong, particularly for large cheques of $500 or $1,000,” says Flack.
Of course with increased giving, there is increased ‘back-end’ work to be done, from keying in donations to issuing receipts and thanking donors. Flack says it can be difficult to keep up with the significant increase in donations during a disaster such as this.
“We normally have two staff members who are involved with processing donations, and we’ve been lucky enough to have two more people come on board in a part-time capacity who knew the system to help process the sheer volume of donations being made. It’s been a full time job just opening the mail and answering the phone!”
“We have had some people asking about their receipts and things like that – it’s just difficult to process thank you letters and receipts within a normal timeframe. We explain that while their gift is very generous and greatly appreciated, we do have some backlog and we hope they will give us some leeway in terms of the time it takes us to issue receipts. Our own building was out of action for a week due to the flooding in South Brisbane,” says Flack.
Charitable assistance available to all who need it
Flack says something to keep in mind is that while state and federal government disaster relief programs are generally all means tested, charitable support is available to all who need it. Sometimes this comes in the form of financial support – but Flack says volunteers are doing a great job with emotional support.
“Our volunteers have been door knocking in flood-affected communities just to see if people are okay. Sometimes people answer the door and say ‘Yes, we’re fine, family have helped us clean up’ – but then burst into tears. Our volunteers are there to comfort them, to offer them coffee from the van, even packs with things like shampoo and small towels.”
To donate to the St Vincent de Paul Society, visit www.svdpqld.com.au
To give to the Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal, go to www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html
Some major donations made to the Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal to date:
(Excluding staff donations, matching staff donations, donations collected at POS etc)
|Conoco Phillips||$1 million|
|Flight Centre||$2 million|
|RACQ||$2 million to Premier’s Flood Appeal,
$8 million to be distributed through foundation
|BHP Billiton||$11 million|
|Commonwealth Bank||$1.35 million|
|Bendigo & Adelaide Bank||$100,000|
|Tabcorp Holdings||$1 million|
|Stockland||$250,000 to Premier’s Relief Fund,
$30,000 to Rockhampton flood appeal
|Origin Energy||$1 million|
|The Lowy Family (owners of Westfield)||$250,000|
|Rio Tinto||$2.01 million|